Duties in connection with Article 50 extension

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 8:45 pm, 3rd April 2019

Absolutely; the idea of our subjecting ourselves to the European Council as well as to the European Parliament is about as humiliating as anybody could imagine. I suppose we are not supposed to say this but it happens to be true: we saved Europe twice in the last 100 years, yet we are now, as a result of this withdrawal agreement and these provisions, subjugating ourselves to the decisions taken by 27 other member states by majority vote.

I see that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman is chuntering. Perhaps he would like to come to the Dispatch Box and make his point. No, he is not going to, because he cannot understand what I am talking about, because he has not actually got the competence to do so. That is the problem. He does not understand what I am saying and therefore cannot tell his constituents about the “control over laws” issue or the fact that qualified majority voting on the law-making in this country is going to be conducted for a significant number of years without our being able to do anything at all about it. There is no veto power in this arrangement; we are entirely subject to it. That might be a reason the Front Benchers of the official Opposition are voting against this, among other things. Maybe they realise how dangerous it is. It is certainly dangerous for a lot of workers and trade unionists, as we found out in the ports regulation, which went through even though every single trade union in every port objected to it. This is going to mean continuous activity in the Council of Ministers into the indefinite future, or certainly for the next few years.

What will the Prime Minister do, given that clause 1(6) seems to assume that a resolution will already have been passed or at least proposed? As that cannot happen before 12 April, there will then be a motion, after which we have to ask what the Prime Minister is going to do and what the European Council is going to insist on. But that is not what the Bill proposes that she should do. Frankly, I cannot see how she can do this without getting parliamentary approval. The Bill merely talks about the Prime Minister having to seek an extension, not having to agree to one that is gratuitously offered by the European Council. This is complete madness. In short, the Bill is a complete and total rubbish dump. If it is enacted tomorrow, I will be fascinated to know what the Government will be able to do about it. It will become the law of the land, and I cannot imagine what will happen. I think it was Alice, in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, who said, when asked about things being possible or impossible:

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

This is a perfect example of that.

Then there is the issue of UK law and exit day. At the moment, exit day has been redefined in the statutory instrument that went through—I believe unlawfully, but we will park that one for the moment—and it is now 12 April unless the House of Commons approves the withdrawal agreement. This Bill assumes that that will not happen, so exit day has to be 12 April under UK law. The Bill says nothing about changing that, and as I read sections 20(3) and (4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, a Minister cannot propose a change to exit day by laying a statutory instrument until the proposed extension date has been agreed with the EU. So unless all this is tied up on 11 April—which seems impossible, as I have just said—how is the UK law to be changed? It must be changed by UK law in those circumstances, of course.